The invention of cell phones drastically transformed not only the technological landscape of the twentieth century but also radically changed the social fabric of many communities around the world for centuries to follow. A short documentary by AsapScience titled “How is Your Phone Changing You?” reveals that out of seven billion people currently living, more than 6 billion own and regularly use mobile phones, which serves as a testament to their popularity and usefulness (How is Your Phone).
However, in his book titled “Taken for Grantedness: The Embedding of Mobile Communication into Society” Rich Ling, argues that the mediation of social interaction by the technology is associated with numerous negative outcomes such as the disappearance of people’s personal spaces and a lack of meaningful connections (103). The aim of this paper is to discuss the social impact of the communication technology. It will be argued that despite some unanticipated negative effects of mobile phones on the society, the key benefits of the use of the mobile telephony such as the strengthening of social cohesion, promotion of economic growth, and facilitation of communication justify its existence.
First, the adoption of the communication technology has resulted in the increase of the cohesion of small-and medium-sized social groups due to the facilitation of interaction between friends and families. Emotional bonding between members of social groups is not possible without regular and meaningful interpersonal Interaction. By building an open conduit between parents and children, the mobile telephony becomes a “full time intimate sphere” (Ling 138).
In order for a family to function in a productive manner, its members have to perceive themselves as interdependent entities whose bonding helps them to resist harmful influences of the external environment. From this vantage point, it is easier to understand why the mediation of communication through the use of mobile phones helps to maintain personal networks. It has to do with the fact that the use of the technology facilitates the creation of communication cocoons around group members, which foster the sense of cohesion and belonging. After all, communication functions as a social glue that holds together disparate sets of relations.
For example, parents often use mobile phones to coordinate their children’s actions, thereby reinforcing their sense of interdependence (Ling 139). In addition to using the technology for family coordination, parents also treat mobile phones as a safety measure. When seen from the perspective of social cohesion, a mobile phone is an instrument of intergenerational connectedness, which by means of its accessibility has shaped the landscape of parenting. The same is applicable in the world of friendship because effective communication is a precondition of long-lasting comradery between people. Thus, it can be argued that the adoption of the mobile telephony has strengthened cohesiveness of small-and medium-sized social networks, which is an example of the positive impact of the technology.
Second, the emergence of cell phones has substantially benefited the word of business. Unlike other people, businessperson rely on the communication technology to stay connected with their clients and associates, which helps them to achieve their immediate and long-term business objectives. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the technology because its communicative function can be used to control operations of their companies.
In addition to the facilitation of communication, the mobile telephony also confers other benefits on its users. For example, the modern mobile devices are characterized by a wide range of advanced functions that are used by business communities in their daily operations. The most powerful feature of smartphones is web browsing. Prior to the development of the technology, the Internet was available only in an office, which substantially reduced the number of business opportunities that could be realized with the help of uninhibited and instant access to information.
With the emergence of sophisticated mobile devices, Internet service providers started expanding their operations, thereby creating new jobs and contributing to the growth of the national economy. Muhammad Sarwar and Tariq Soomro, authors of an article titled “Impact of Smartphones on Society,” remarked on positive effects the mobile technology by arguing that it “created new dimensions for business” (218).
The scholars point to the fact that the development of smartphones was a precondition for the emergence of several mobile application markets (Sarwar and Soomro 218). The markets created by vendors such as Microsoft and iPhone offer their customers access to customizable mobile applications. It follows that software development is another business domain that has reaped enormous benefits from the widespread of mobile phones.
Sarwar and Soomro also maintain that unlike other computing advancements, smartphones helped to improve the effectiveness of advertising sector, which has a positive effect on individual consumers, in particular, and for the society, in general (218). Taking into consideration the significance of economic growth for the society’s wellbeing, it is impossible to disregard the contribution of the mobile telephony to the business world.
Meanwhile, opponents of the communication technology argue that its impact on the society is a net negative. In their analysis of smartphones’ social influences, Sarwar and Soomro posit that mobile devices interfere with people’s sleep (223). The findings of a survey on smartphone use reveal that as much as 33 percent owners of the gadget check their emails and messages when in bed (Sarwar and Soomro 223). The scholars maintain that by depriving people of sleep, the technology functions as an additional source of stress (Sarwar and Soomro 223).
A similar line of reasoning can be traced in the documentary authors of which argue that “people who read on their smartphones at night have a harder time falling asleep and produce less melatonin” (AsapScience). Furthermore, mobile phone users often find it difficult to separate their business lives from their personal lives, thereby skewing a healthy work-family balance. While it is hard to argue against these points, it has to be borne in mind that continuous monitoring of messages stems from a willingness to maintain a close connection with people, which is not, necessarily, a bad thing. Therefore, the preservation of social cohesion is a concerted and continuous effort net benefits of which outweigh its net negatives.
The paper has discussed the sociological impact of mobile telephony. It has been argued that the introduction of the technology into people’s everyday lives has helped them to traverse away from the conventional norms of social interaction. By having access to effective means of mediated communication, small-and mid-size social groups have been able to increase their cohesiveness, which is an extremely beneficial effect of cell phones. Furthermore, despite some negative influences that the technology has on people’s lives, its emergence has helped to strengthen the economy, thereby creating new societal goods.
“How is Your Phone Changing You?” YouTube, uploaded by AsapScience. 2016. Web.
Ling, Rich. Taken for Grantedness: The Embedding of Mobile Communication into Society. The MIT Press, 2012.
Sarwar, Muhammad, and Tariq Soomro. “Impact of Smartphones on Society.” European Journal of Scientific Research, vol. 98, no. 2, 2013, pp. 216-226.